IIT Delhi’s School of Interdisciplinary Research solving problems, which cut across traditional domains within and beyond IITD

The main focus of IIT Delhi is ‘knowledge generation’ through research, technology, Intellectual Propriety development and initiating start-up activities. Towards this end, there was a need for enlisting doctoral students from all disciplines adept in tackling problems that cross traditional boundaries.

The School of Interdisciplinary Research (SIRe) was thus founded in October 2017 as a virtual school at IIT Delhi to strengthen strategic interdisciplinary areas on fundamental and societal issues. The small strides taken so far have gathered momentum setting an optimistic vision for SIRe.

Speaking on the occasion of launching an all new website (http://sire.iitd.ac.in/) of the school, Prof V. Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi said, “The future of research and innovation will be at the intersection of different disciplines. Institutions need to create mechanisms for faculty and students to interact with researchers who are working outside of their domains of expertise. This will help open up new fields of research and boost the innovation eco system. SIRe at IIT Delhi is doing this effectively.”

He also added that the institute would largely benefit by increasing the present student strength at SIRe to a few hundred and ensure that they do cutting edge research in Interdisciplinary areas and also take up research problems that have a societal relevance. Institute hopes to see many of them turn into entrepreneurs.

Prof A. Ramanan, Head, SIRe said, “The school serves as an ideal platform for the growing numbers of the Centres of Excellence, MoUs and other joint degree programs with external Indian and international institutions for research into problems requiring multidisciplinary approaches. SIRe offers opportunity to pool knowledge and skills from core disciplines and different institutions to solve intractable research and societal problems.”

In the last two years, SIRe has enrolled 20 research scholars from diverse academic backgrounds. Most of them have sponsored projects and others have their own fellowship earned through all India tests. For supervision of their research work, SIRe has 36 faculty members from different fields and institutions.

All the research scholars at SIRe are engaged in solving problems that cut across traditional domains. Here’s a glimpse of research works being done by the students at SIRe:

  • Two projects have started under the umbrella of IITD and neighbouring institutions like AIIMS and JNU.
    • Investigating effects of generalized anxiety on valence processing and decision making in long-term gains and losses, specifically to understand how these affect decision-making deficits in anxiety disorder.
    • Investigating equilibrium and non-equilibrium studies of liquid crystals to provide fundamental inputs to the multibillion LCD industry.
  • Emerging health related and other projects such as:
    • Combating antimicrobial resistance, process development for production of therapeutic proteins, developing nanocomposite based treatment technologies for removing antibiotic resistant genes from waste water, developing a revenue model for bio-informatics, managing risks from emerging pollutants in urban environments, cloud processes for predicting accuracy of monsoon and deciding the rainfall over different regions. More research projects are in the pipeline.
  • High performance computing setup at IITD has enabled many groups to undertake interdisciplinary projects in the area of structural engineering, computational studies towards defence and atmospheric sciences related work and materials research.
    • A civil engineering candidate is studying how to manage risks from emerging pollutants in urban environments guided by an environmental engineer and a biochemical engineer. Their objective is to map the compounds and their byproducts in different urban environmental settings to estimate the quantum of pollutants, and their possible sources.
  • Cloud processes play an important role in Indian monsoon forecasting and deciding the rainfall over different regions. High resolution modeling methods are being studied to resolve these processes.
  • A PMRF scholar is engaged in the modeling and designing of new materials for application in solid-state batteries under the supervision of a chemistry and physics professor.
  • A polymer technology graduate is developing a capillary electrophoresis microchip by micro-fabrication techniques to analyse pesticides present in the soil under the supervision of a biomedical engineer and a chemical engineer.
  • A nanochemist and a textile engineer are developing novel ‘shape memory polymers’ to weave smart textiles for varied applications with a team of materials engineering and textile technology faculty.
  • A physics post-graduate is engaged in developing nanofibers for advance lithium Sulphur batteries under the supervision of a mechanical engineer and a textile technologist.
  • Advanced materials research is another theme developing in the context of interdisciplinary studies.